The book I’m reviewing today is one I’m intimately familiar with. Honestly, for me, the Halo series was the first science fiction video game series I really dove into. For fantasy, the Elder Scrolls was my first real dip in that genre.
I remember when the original Halo: Combat Evolved was released. For me it was practically life-changing, since I bonded with friends and family using that game.
The year was 2002. I recall hushed whispers of a Halo book whose tome held the secret of the Master Chief’s real name. I couldn’t believe it when I’d heard it! So I went to one of those giant book stores (they still had those then) and bought the only Halo book they had.
The Fall of Reach by Eric Nylund chronicles the events immediately preceding the story of Halo: Combat Evolved. It’s a military science fiction story (I’ve covered a few in the past, most recently Hammer’s Slammers) and follows mainly the child John, who would become Master Chief, an enigmatic member of the Spartan-II program. Children like these are abducted by the military and raised in a literally Spartan style of training. It’s brutal, it’s callous, and it’s deadly. I recall several of the children dying.
But they become strong. They’re described as having the bodies of Olympians, with the skills of military veterans. They’re given powerful battle armor and trained to kill. Then, the alien races known as the Covenant show up. John becomes a leader, and is promoted to Master Chief Petty Officer.
Knowing the Halo series, I always assumed the Spartans were created to fight the alien race known as the Covenant. However, in this book, it’s revealed that the Spartans existed to fight other humans. They were intended to squash any rebellion in human systems.
I will add praise, though, to the symbolism present in the Halo universe. It’s not particularly Eric Nylund’s work, but his book is solid. The names like “Covenant”, “the Ark”, “the Flood” all have religious connotations and match well with the Covenant’s use of religion as tools of motivation.
All in all it’s a good story for fans of the property. In a reread, I’d say it’s a little slow in parts and it’s hard to see John as anything but a perfect character. He reminds me a lot of Ender from Ender’s Game. As military science fiction, it’s not heavy enough in the combat. I think fans of the series would like it, but beyond that I can’t see it appealing to many others.
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